Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 27th 2016 Contents A29
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Last week in one of my higher-learning
classes, a lecturer was asked by a classmate
whose childhood was spent elsewhere, to
tell us the difference in life then and now.
We were discussing changes in lifestyle
from the perspective of the baby boomers
and how over time those have influenced
changes in lifestyles, diseases, and illnesses.
From the expressions, the resulting dis-
cussion was quite a schooling for the
younger ones who make up the larger per-
centage of the cohort.
When we reflect on our lives we mainly
recall good times, experiences and memories.
Seldom would you meet anyone who vol-
unteers the other information about their
life---the trauma, violations, adverse expe-
rience, damaging occurrences, poverty, and
When I was a child, I was mostly a happy
child. We were abjectly poor but my parents
somehow shielded me from that information
so it was not until it was pointed out by a
schoolmate in primary school that I knew
anything of it. Then in secondary school,
Form One, I always remember the food and
nutrition teaching speaking of whole wheat
bread for which I had absolutely no reference.
I was privately embarrassed and sat there
hoping she never asked me anything on the
subject. She chose my classmate Ken Joseph
and they had the discussion, thankfully.
I started "acting out" by my second year
in secondary school. Having topped my year
one, the expectations were high but the
praise and prizes somehow coincided with
When I was a child...
my desire to be disrup-
tive. And disruptive I
was for the next few
years with falling grades
as proof of the deeper
Often, I wonder if
someone had asked me
a question or develop a
concern about the root
issues what would have
been the outcome. For
me, I really wanted someone to ask me about "stuff"
but my teachers, while extremely supportive---with
much gratitude for the outstanding support from
Vera Nibbs, Joycelyn Bobb, Miss Ashby, the school
secretary, the late Phulmatie Maharaj, Dr Francisca
Allard, Marlene Charles, and Principal Rev Allan
Parks, among many others---offered many other solu-
tions like counselling, detention, and Inter-School
Christian Fellowship, and so on.
Retrospectively, I know even if they d asked, back
then I could only offer them the surface experiences,
the more palatable, ones because we ve been nurtured
and socialised to suppress the hideous circumstances
of our lives---the very ones that destroy the fabric
of our being.
That suppression of issues, the desire to keep
hidden the unpleasant situations of disappointments,
hurts, abuse, and trauma is still predominant in our
society. We socialise our children to pretend all is
well. As parents, I wonder how many of us would
dare share with our children what we have suffered
to offer them a window of hope that says to them
it s possible and important to speak out and accept
help for their troubling issues. I suspect we don t
and that could account in part for the explosion in
incidence of bullying, teen-on-teen violence, suicide
and self-harm, suicidal ideation, and more.
Globally, the experts are weighing in on the severity
of the issue of childhood traumas and adversity and
are offering solutions and suggestions for the man-
agement of the wellbeing of children with the under-
standing that all of these negative issues are made to
bear on behaviour and health in the adult years. These
are proactive scholarship which I believe can help T&T
with its flabbergasted and reactionary conduct to our
current and debilitating societal breakdown.
"A central aim of any society should be that its
children and young people enjoy their lives and
acquire the skills necessary to become happy, func-
tioning adults," says the introduction of one such
WHO (World Health Organization) supported doc-
ument. "For this, they need to develop emotional
buoyancy, coping skills, resilience and the ability to
form constructive social relationships..."
The raw facts are that hundreds of millions of
people worldwide are affected by mental disorders.
From among that number, ten per cent of the
world s children live (and suffer) from diagnosable
mental illnesses and disorders.
Roughly half of these children have anxiety disorders
(or, less commonly, depression) and the other half
live with conduct disorder or attention deficit and
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Approximately one per cent of all children suffer
from developmental disorders such as autism.
Where evidence exists over time, it shows that
these problems have increased over the last half cen-
We do not yet have the applicable evidence for
T&T, but we d do well to assume that a similar ratio
applies here. Of course, those statistics would only
makes sense if we want to assume and perhaps give
more consideration for what is happening in our pop-
ulation, understanding that most adult complications
of mind and body begin in the childhood years.
With some contemplation, we may realise and
come to accept that T&T needs a sustainable pro-
gramme of preventive actions, treatment, and care
which must be widely available to our population,
especially the constituency of children and adoles-
cence, to move us over time from our current jaw-
dropping circumstances to a better place overall...in
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
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